During Advent & Christmas, we are featuring devotionals written by clergy of the Greater NJ Annual Conference of the UMC. For this week, we are focused on reflections related to Simeon, based on the Gospel of Luke.
25 A man named Simeon was in Jerusalem. He was righteous and devout. He eagerly anticipated the restoration of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 The Holy Spirit revealed to him that he wouldn’t die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 Led by the Spirit, he went into the temple area. Meanwhile, Jesus’ parents brought the child to the temple so that they could do what was customary under the Law. 28 Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God. He said,
29 “Now, master, let your servant go in peace according to your word,
30 because my eyes have seen your salvation.
31 You prepared this salvation in the presence of all peoples.
32 It’s a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and a glory for your people Israel.”
33 His father and mother were amazed by what was said about him. 34 Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “This boy is assigned to be the cause of the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that generates opposition 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your innermost being too.”
Have you ever noticed that sometimes the absolute best things are also our downfall, the greatest things in life also are wrapped up in grief and in sorrow and in journeys that are fraught with difficult terrain and a constant opening and pouring out of ourselves.
Think of the best things in your life, your favorite relationships or your favorite moments in life. The amazing, aha, life changing moments- were they easy? Did they come with no trial? The things that shaped you, that revealed the deepest parts of who you are, did they not also come with a sword that pierced your own soul too?
Eventually every amazing thing that we have, even the things we hoped and prayed for our whole lives often comes with something painful. Elizabeth and Zecheriah waited their whole lives and prayed their whole lives for a child, and eventually that child- who was destined for greater things- left them for the wilderness and his life was ended for spite. Joseph probably never expected to be raising a child that was not his, and probably produced a lot more whispers in local society than he expected, but I also bet that he loved Jesus with all he had for all long as he had Jesus in his life. Mary was promised the child of God- the one who would bring salvation, the mighty one, and eight days after her miracle baby is born she is told that this child will do incredible things, but that he would also suffer greatly, and she would lose a bit of herself in this too. The Shepherds were the outcasts in society, the ones no one wanted to hang around or wanted around, and yet they were the first ones to receive the news that the Messiah had been born- but I also bet that the next morning, they were still treated exactly the same. God with us does not promise us a perfect or easy life. God with us does not mean that we will never suffer for another moment or find darkness in our lives. God with us means that we will bear witness to, and experience first hand the falling and rising of many, the opposition and the piercing of our own souls.
By the Rev. Gabrielle Corbett
For Pondering & Prayer
God with us means that all of those things become worth it- because we get to touch the way things should be. It means that we too can touch the kin(g)dom of God where all are fully known and fully loved. We put in the hard work to see the kin(g)dom unfold before our eyes, to touch heaven on earth, to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.
So take heart, because you are not alone.
God is with us, even at the piercings of our souls, today and every day.
Prayer: Holy Lord, allow us to be changed by the many voices, perspectives, and interpretations we have read in theses devotionals this advent season. Amen.